It’s been a wild ride for former Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes. The representative for the riding of Whitby stepped down from the Liberal Party after what she said was a “hostile” exchange with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
She now sits as an independent member of Parliament, and in her first television interview since she left the Liberal caucus, Chavannes is breaking her silence about how that affected her.
Caesar-Chavannes, who has been MP for Whitby since 2015, had chosen to step down and not seek re-election and brought this news to Trudeau back in February. She alleges the PM yelled at her in their conversation.
Caesar-Chavannes first brought up the interaction on Twitter, when all eyes were on the SNC-Lavalin affair involving Jody Wilson-Raybould. It was then that Chavannes posted a tweet, questioning the prime minister and his statement that he wants staff to feel comfortable in coming up to him if they have concerns.
“I did come to you recently. Twice. Remember your reactions?” she said in her tweet.
In a statement, Matt Pascuzzo, spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office, denied there was any anger from the prime minister. “There’s no question the conversations in February were emotional, but there was absolutely no hostility,” Pascuzzo said.
Caesar-Chavannes also sat as the parliamentary secretary for the PM and the minister of international development during her term on the Liberal caucus. She tells Global Durham what she is most disappointed in is Trudeau’s overall response to their interaction.
“The response to that was not what I expected, so I’m concerned about that,” she says. “I’m not Celina when I go to see the PM, I am the town of Whitby — I am their voice. Therefore, I should be treated as such.”
Although she has seen some negative response from the public since choosing to sit as an independent, including a piece of racist mail sent to her constituency office, the MP for the town of Whitby says overall support has been strong from her constituents.
“The support has been fantastic,” says Caesar-Chavannes. “When I went to people’s doors, I told them I would represent them, and that didn’t change when I decided I wasn’t going to run. That doesn’t change until the day I leave this job.”
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During an exclusive television interview, Caesar-Chavannes wouldn’t predict who may win the election come October, but offered the advice that whoever does sit in the position, she hopes Whitby is represented fairly.
“Anything could happen,” says Caesar-Chavannes. “It’s not just about bringing funding to Whitby, there is so much and it’s a huge responsibility for the job. I’d hope the person that does that next, does that in a way that continues a legacy in this community of people who are quite independent thinkers in politics.
Caesar-Chavannes still attends events and represents her constituents, as she will remain in the House until the House rises in mid-June. She will remain an MP until October.
She says when it comes to what’s next for her, she wants to continue in a role that helps people.
“I think there is a role to continue what I do in this office, to help people have the tools and skills to have the things that they need,” says the MP. “This is especially smaller organizations, the ones that look after our sick, elderly, look after individuals with disabilities.”